Likewise Brings Open Source to Microsoft with SMB for Linux
It’s no secret that competitive VARs should constantly tweak their operations in reaction to shifting demands in the market. But few companies have exhibited such adeptness in reinventing themselves as Likewise, which in the last year has drastically redirected its focus and, most recently, signed on to an innovative partnership with Microsoft. Here’s the scoop on the deal, and where it fits in to the larger picture.
Traditionally, Likewise’s major products were firmly rooted in the Active Directory bridge market. Likewise delivered solutions for connecting Linux, OS X and other Unix machines to an AD environment. In July 2011, however, the company shifted course significantly when it announced it would sell its AD bridge assets to ActiveTrust and, a month later, officially proclaimed storage services as its new niche. Its storage products, which emphasize cross-platform compatibility and security, build in some important respects on Likewise’s earlier expertise in the AD world, but they nonetheless represent a very novel endeavor for the organization.
It seems that Likewise’s new focus is paying off, however, with the announcement last week of an agreement with Microsoft to develop Server Message Block (SMB) 2.2 support for Linux and other Unix-like systems.
Likewise management is clearly excited about the deal, which it views as a prime opportunity to capitalize on an emerging protocol that could radically reshape storage technology, particularly in virtualized environments. As Likewise VP of sales and marketing Ken Cheney wrote:
Microsoft stands to secure their future in virtualization and the cloud with what they have announced. By writing BOTH the protocols AND supplying the platform it runs on – Microsoft will be improving the performance and throughput of applications running on Windows 8 exponentially – and putting many other vendors at a disadvantage. The development teams at Microsoft impressively demonstrated over the past few days how they have been working in tight coordination to exploit SMB 2.2 to provide significant performance, reliability, and scalability improvements to better enable Microsoft Hyper-V for virtualization as well as application workloads built on the likes of Microsoft IIS and Microsoft SQL.
The Open Source Question
While Likewise’s agreement with Microsoft might be denounced as sacrilege in some quarters, given the company’s traditionally strong commitment to open source, it could also prove vastly beneficial to the open source community by ensuring Linux isn’t left out of the loop when SMB 2.2 becomes a major NAS protocol.
It remains unclear what kind of license may govern Likewise’s future products, but whether they’re open or closed, they will at least provide Linux users an opportunity to plug in to Windows-centric storage environments without having to rely solely on independently developed solutions.
At the end of the day, no matter what exactly Likewise ends up producing via its agreement with Microsoft or where the new products situate the company within the open-source channel, the organization’s recent moves are a lesson in reinvention — or, at least, retooling — in a shifting world.
In less than a year Likewise has substantially redefined its focus with significant success. And perhaps more impressively, it stands poised, through its engagement with Microsoft, to help reconfigure Microsoft’s relationship with the open source channel itself, introducing official support for Microsoft technologies where none existed before.